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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Connect the Dots

One thing I am still a little slow with is math. As an adult I found an algebra teacher or two who made things clear to me. But, beyond the fact that three jelly beans and four jelly beans make seven jelly beans, I didn't see the point back in the day. Not my gift, as further driven home by Mr. B's 6th grade class, where the Bright Boys from Beacon Hill called out the calculations while the Glum Girl's (me) Gaze Glazed. In 7th Grade I Gradually Grew Gallant - because it was Jr. High School where we had different content area teachers: English, Math, Science, Social Studies... And, as you might Guess, I was Given to language skills. There, I excelled. That led to an improvement everwhere else until Chemistry came along. And chemistry is another life, both in and out of the classroom.

I learned math on an as-needed basis. I know how to figure percentage discounts in my head and I can sense when my checkbook balance is, uhm... in need of calculating. I can shop on a shoestring if I need to. I can still recite most of the multiplication table (I forget the 12's). But, if someone along the way had showed me the multiplication TABLE I saw in an elementary classroom I was observing last year, who knows how far that would have taken me... "Table; I get it... a diagram with columns of information!" What a CONCEPT!

God knows. He knew then and He knows now, how math works in everyone's life. I could not have saved the astronauts from spinning off into space with a slide rule, but I see His math all the time, and I see some people catching on to it a little at a time. And what I have seen lately is a reminder of this: We never reap exactly what we sow. An ear of corn contains about 1,000 kernels of corn (Why is it called an ear? Maybe because there are usually no more than two on a stalk). One kernel of corn sown produces at least 1,000 kernels of, we do not reap exactly what we sow (as I used to think), we reap a harvest of what we sow...

We are all given dots - kernels as it were, and we must take those dots and connect them, constructing our own meaning, or we have learned nothing. It is the only way we really learn. The rest is rote memorization with no application. My daughter Gave me a wall plaque for Christmas two years ago. I could not hang it in my room at the Christian school, but it now hangs above my desk in my public high school classroom: "Teachers open the door, you enter by yourself." (Chinese proverb). It was the "Chinese proverb" part that would have caused me Grief. But, I recognize the truth when I hear it, regardless of the source. This same daughter, when we first began our journey to know God, took crayons of rainbow colors and scribbled in arc shaped lines (she was only three). I had just read Matthew 13:3-8. Along with the scripture reference I wrote: "It is not what God gives us that counts, it is what we make of it." But this interpretation did not please the well-intended church-folk who maintained I was taking the Bible out of context. So, I buried it in my heart.

I have long since forgiven, and continue to have a multitude of reasons to forgive the church-folk. Even the ones I don't know, whose actions reap comments like the one I heard yesterday from a fellow teacher, whose 30 years of service to the community speaks for him: "I hate Christians... They will stab you in the back every single time...oops," he added, looking my way, "I hope you're not one." He walked away before I could or would answer. I hope not, too, because, I don't want to proclaim that I am a Christian. I want to live as one in a world that He still cares about enough to keep me living here.

I came home and opened an email from my mother's youngest sister, about an all-female C-5 cockpit crew, where I Gleaned the following 'quote for the day' (The random capitalizations are mine):
"Whatever you Give a woman, she will make Greater...if you Give her a house, she will ...(Give) you a home. If you Give her Groceries, she will Give you a meal. If you Give her a smile, she will Give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her."
Well, after a week of excrutiatingly long days, I was lacking Groceries, and longing for Good conversation with my husband, so we went out and Grabbed a pizza. Our conversation Gravitated toward some recent interactions with friends and the subject of how real learning takes place. In the process we Generated two Groundrules for real learning: We learn by interacting, both with people and with problems. We will begin to act like the people we associate with and we will only learn how to do the things we interact with.

I love it when God Gives me points and asks me to connect them to construct the knowledge of Him in my everyday life. The vision goes on and on, in a multiplicity of applications. Quite simply, I cannot do this for anyone else, though I may long to do so. I can only offer the same dots for drawing your own picture and tell you about mine:

He is still speaking, still creating and still working wherever and whenever we allow Him to. It is our own limited understanding that limits the Creator of the Universe from working in our lives. I have added, multiplied and divided this from so many places in His word and from my own experience that I know it is true. What we believe about Him is the most critical element (point, dot) in what we receive from Him. "According to your faith let it be done unto you" (Matthew 9:29).
  • He sowed His word in the earth (John 1).
  • It is here (Romans 1:18-21), in precious elements among the worthless.
  • It is up to us each to "rightly divide" this Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • It is up to us each to "separate the precious from the worthless" (Jeremiah 15:19).
  • It is up to us each to take what He has Given us, and multiply it back to Him in whatever way we have Faith to do (Matthew 13:3-8).
  • We are not to conform to any image but His (Romans 12:2).
  • We are not to call something good when it is evil (Isaiah 5:20).
  • We are not to try to please our fellow man/woman (Colossians 3:22), but to serve him/her (Galatians 5:13).
  • We are to walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15).
  • We are to love with Patience, Kindness, Selflessness, and Believe the best of everyone (1 Corinthians 13).
Not long ago a door that should have been open (based on every reasonable expectation and possible qualification) was closed. In my heart I knew that the reason I was told was not really the truth. It is only as I write this that I am able to pinpoint what has been taking shape in my Spirit since that time. The speaker was taking the word literally. God's spirit revealed that it was meant to be a figurative word... it was not a physical characteristic that made me a misfit, but a spiritual one which made me discrete. This would not be an environment for interactive Growth and learning. It was a Good thing to not fit in -- Especially because God had already been speaking to me about what He wanted me to do. I was just waiting for the door, which had remained ajar for months, to open or to close. When it closed, I saw quite clearly, it was not time to Go in... it was time to Go out... into the world, and teach others how to connect the dots.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Intrapersonal Learning

It was Howard Gardner who came up with the term, and I accepted it gladly. It took me many years on my own to determine my learning style, and I was glad someone was willing to give it credibility. When I was young (my older brother and) I thought I was just "slow." My IQ test proved otherwise. No genius, mind you...

It simply means, I have to think about it. There is no need to yell at me, or even to suggest that I step back and reflect. That is who I am.

It (and yes, I realize this is the third paragraph beginning with "it," thanks) has recently come to my attention that poets and philosophers often have this learning style. But, in a survey of 100 students in classrooms I have taught, NONE has been an intrapersonal learner. Still, I'm not usually lonely, so, it's ok; really. I guess the world just doesn't need a lot of philosophers and poets.

Still - watch for us, instructors! We are a quiet bunch, and it isn't that we don't listen or understand. Indeed, we do. We may miss some of the details, but we want to absorb the concept. We just have to think about it, and trust me; you wouldn't want it any other way.